On William Zinsser’s “College Pressures”

This was by far my favorite piece that we have read thus far. I think it’s because I found it so relatable to the point I am at in my life right now.

I feel as though I can relate to at least three of the pressures he has mentioned (economic pressure, peer-pressure and self-induced pressure). Most of my pressure by far is self-induced. I’m a huge perfectionist. I cringe at and fear the thought of getting a C. Although this trait has worked wonders for my GPA, it has caused me horrendous stress along the way. I feel as though I am constantly over-exerting myself and constantly setting newer and bigger goals for myself. I have also experience peer-pressure. I find myself constantly comparing my exam scores to the mean score in order to see if I am “up to par” with the other students. Stony Brook is a competitive school and I feel like every student is constantly at battle with one another. I’ve go to school full-time and have worked part-time throughout all 4+ years (~30 hours a week) so this has left me  with very little time to do extracurriculars. I’m constantly overhearing people talking about being president of some club or volunteering abroad and worry about how this will give them a competitive advantage over me in the future, but I really had no other choice (I had no time). Lastly, I experience economic pressure. I pay a pretty decent portion of my bills, so as mentioned before, I have had to work throughout college. My major required that I do an internship, and most internships out there are unpaid. This summer I had to take an unpaid internship and give up working for 2 months. Ever since then, I have barely been able to keep on my bills and this has been extremely stressful. I also have a new economic pressure looming over me, I will be graduating in December and my student loans will finally start rolling in. I will be paying for my education myself. For the past four years, student loans have been this invisible presence, I know they’re there, but do not worry about them too much because I don’t have to pay them yet. But, this is all about to change, and this definitely worries me. I must say however, that I do not experience parental pressure, my parents have been nothing but supportive of my choices throughout my whole college career.

One pressure he doesn’t exactly mention, although I guess it could fall under the “economic pressure” is the looming pressure to get a job. We all constantly hear how horrible out there it is to get a job (almost impossible in some fields) and yet, recent graduates are often viewed as lazy when they cannot find a job out of college. This horrible contradiction is also another big pressure.

Zinsser’s advice to students is to “release from the clammy grip of the future” and to teach them that there is “no right way to get ahead – that each of them is a different person, starting from a different point and bound for a different destination.” These days, all of us enter college with a set plan in our heads, but things happen and our opinions change – our straight path soon becomes a winding road, and that’s ok!

I think we all value our education differently. Some see it as a ticket to get ahead economically. Some see it as an experience to expand our minds. Some see it as both. When I started college I (thought) I had a set plan of what I was going to do, but it ended up changing several times, which is why I’m graduating a semester late. The reason it changed was because I took a variety of classes which opened up my mind in new ways and exposed me to new topics. I started out as pre-vet and ended up switching to sociology and then to environmental studies, and I think I’m a lot happier now than I would have been still on the pre-vet track. Anyways, long story short, I’m grateful for all the “road blocks” my education has thrown me. I value my education for the economic doors it will open, but I also value it for the new ways of thinking it has taught me and for my new interests and passions that it has sparked.

After this semester, I will be graduating. I’m exhausted, so I definitely plan on taking a semester off and hopefully, start working. I want to see what jobs are out there for me (if any). I do plan on graduate school in the near-ish future. I’m pretty sure I want to pursue a masters in conservation biology or sustainability. To be decided….


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